Tuna with unsafe levels of mercury is on dinner menus at some of New Yorkâ€™s most well known and expensive eateries, according to a report in todayâ€™s New York Times. At some restaurants, mercury levels in tuna sushi even exceeded limits set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Environmental Defense described the report as a wake up call that FDA was not protecting consumers from dangerous seafood.
(New York, NY â€“ January 23, 2008) Tuna with unsafe levels of mercury is on dinner menus at some of New Yorkâ€™s most well known and expensive eateries, according to a report in todayâ€™s New York Times. At some restaurants, mercury levels in tuna sushi even exceeded limits set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Environmental Defense described the report as a wake up call that FDA was not protecting consumers from dangerous seafood.
â€œThe FDA is failing the American people when it comes to seafood
safety. As illustrated by recent news stories about illegal drug
residues in Chinese seafood, FDA inspects less than one percent of
imported seafood annually. Far less seafood is ever tested for
environmental toxins such as mercury,â€ said Tim Fitzgerald, marine scientist with Environmental Defense in New York.
â€œThe FDA does so little mercury testing that they can't even come close
enforcing their own safety standards. Unfortunately, the situation is â€˜buyer bewareâ€™ for U.S. consumers.â€
Consumers can learn more about making wise seafood choices at www.EnvironmentalDefense.org/seafood. The website includes a list of contaminated fish based on data compiled from 200 studies by academic and government scientists, as well as recommendations of seafood choices that are healthy for both consumers and the environment.
â€œThe public needs a new way to ensure their seafood is safe,â€ said Diane Regas, an attorney and Oceans Program managing director at Environmental Defense. â€œCongress should allow citizens to take action to ensure food is safe. Similar provisions have made a tremendous difference in ensuring enforcement of environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act. They could do the same to ensure food safety.â€ â€œFDA also needs to update its science,â€ continued Fitzgerald. â€œTheir â€˜action levelâ€™ for mercury is based on 35-year-old science. Even if FDA were equipped to enforce its current action level, consumers would still not be protected based on todayâ€™s knowledge.â€ In an effort that should be duplicated by the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established considerably tougher limits on mercury for fish caught by recreational and subsistence fishermen in state waters. A report from the National Academies of Science in 2000 called EPAâ€™s limits â€œscientifically justifiable level for the protection of public health.â€
â€œThe bottom line is that current federal oversight for mercury falls far short of whatâ€™s needed to protect consumers,â€ said Fitzgerald. â€œUntil FDA both updates its mercury action level and that limit is enforced, consumers who think they are eating a healthy seafood diet may actually be causing themselves serious harm.â€